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New Canaan's Philip Caldwell, Retired Ford CEO, Dies At 93

Philip Caldwell retired to New Canaan after his years at Ford Motor Co.
Philip Caldwell retired to New Canaan after his years at Ford Motor Co. Photo Credit: Ford Motor Co.

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- Philip Caldwell, who was first CEO of Ford Motor Co. who came from outside the Ford family, died Wednesday at the age of 93.

Caldwell and his wife Betsey had lived in New Canaan since he retired from the Big 3 automotive company in 1985. 

“Philip Caldwell had a remarkable impact at Ford Motor Company over a span of more than 30 years," said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. "Serving as CEO and later as Chairman of the Board of Directors, he helped guide the company through a difficult turnaround in the 1980s and drove the introductions of ground-breaking products around the globe.

"His dedication and relentless passion for quality always will be hallmarks of his legacy at Ford. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Succeeding Henry Ford II, Caldwell became CEO of Ford in October 1979 and chairman of the board in March 1980. He retired from the company on Feb. 1, 1985, and from the Board of Directors on May 10, 1990.

After his retirement from the company, he became senior managing director of Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc. on May 1, 1985.

Caldwell had a diversified, 32-year career with Ford, including senior management responsibilities for automotive and truck operations in North America and for the company’s international activities.

His early managerial experience at Ford spanned purchasing, engineering, product planning and manufacturing. He was elected a vice president of Ford Motor Co. and appointed general manager of truck operations for North America in 1968. In 1970, he was named president of Philco-Ford Corp., a subsidiary of Ford Motor Co. A year later, he was appointed vice president in charge of the Manufacturing Group for Ford North American Automotive Operations.

Caldwell was elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Ford of Europe Inc. in July 1972. The following year he was elected a director of the company and executive vice president of Ford International Automotive Operations, with responsibility for all automotive operations outside the United States and Canada.

He was elected vice chairman of the board of Ford Motor Company in April 1977. He was elected vice chairman, president and deputy chief executive officer in October 1978, and became president and chief executive office on Oct. 1, 1979. He became chairman of the board and chief executive officer on March 13, 1980.

Before joining Ford in 1953, he had a been a civilian executive the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., for seven years, following active service as a naval officer during World War II.

A native of Ohio, Mr. Caldwell was graduated from Muskingum College in 1940 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics, and in 1942 received a master of business administration degree from the Harvard Business School.

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